The Year of the (Odd) Candidate

Politicians are, by definition, a bit abnormal. However, this year we seem to have more than our fair share of the truly odd.

No doubt any given electoral cycle has its fair share of oddballs seeking office.  However, it does seem that 2010 has been especially full up on unusual office-seekers.  And while I suppose that an argument can be made that anyone willing to subject oneself to a political campaign is odd, there are some prominent candidates this go ’round who are truly odd.

In alphabetical order:

Sharon Angle, Republican nominee for Senate in Nevada.  Angle’s candidacy is interesting if anything because the Nevada GOP managed to nominate the one candidate who could lose to Harry Reid.   Reid is highly unpopular at home and was clearly vulnerable this cycle, and yet the race is neck-and-neck at the moment.

Alvin Greene, Democratic nominee for Senate in South Carolina.  In terms of pure weirdness, I think Greene is the king of 2010.  He is an unemployed Iraq war veteran living with his Dad.  He came out of nowhere to defeat an established candidate for the Democratic nomination.  His overall significance is not that high, however, as incumbent Senator Jim DeMint was always a shoe-in for re-election.

Some of Alvin’s greatest hits:

Rich Iott, Republican nominee for Ohio’s Ninth Congressional district:  his hobbies included war reenactment as a member of the Wafen SS.  Say what you will about his foray into “living history,” one of the things that no politician should ever want to have to explain is why there are pictures of him dressed up like a Nazi.

Christine O’Donnell, Republican nominee for Senate in Delaware.*  In some ways may be the most significant of the odd candidates because, quite simply, her defeat of Mike Castle in the GOP primary cost the Republicans the Senate seat in question.

Some links concerning her oddness:

Carl Paladino, Republican nominee for Governor in the state of New York.

I think that this is main list of the truly odd.  There are other interesting and/or colorful candidate out there, but I don’t think any of them rise to the level of oddness of those on the list.

Others I considered are listed below, but they are all simply interesting and none deviate from the norm of politics the way the above-listed candidates do.

Jerry Brown (D-CA for governor):  interesting, if anything, because he was governor once before (and quite some time ago at that).  The “whore” comment was colorful and unkind, but colorful and unkind is a staple of politics.  Yes, he was once nicknamed “Governor Moonbeam” but that was quite some time and ago and all things considered, he does have an impressive political resume if one looks at from an objective perspective.

Rand Paul (R-KY for Senate).  He did start off his campaign poorly by coming out of the gate criticizing the Civil Rights Act.  This was an unforced error and reflective both of his novice status and his political philosophy, but not odd.  He is also interesting as the son of a sitting Congressman/political rockstar (in some circles), Ron Paul.

Meg Whitman (R-CA for gov) and Carly Fiorina (R-CA for Senate) are both interesting, but not odd.  Interesting because a)  they are both former CEOs with a lot of personal wealth to spend on their campaigns and b) they are both high-profile female candidates.

We can also thrown Ben Quayle in solely because his dad is Dan Quayle.

Also worthy of mention:  Linda McMahon (R-CT for the Senate) who made her fortune alongside husband Vince McMahon by managing the WWE.**

The race in AK also qualifies as “interesting” as it may be a rare sight:  a serious write-in campaign.  We also get the spectacle of a three-way race in Florida.

*Correction:  I had inadvertently typed “Connecticut”.

**Thanks to commenter Ben for reminding me that I had left her off the list (and for noting my CT/DE error–I guess being from Texas and having lived in California all those little states seem the same :).

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Ben says:

    O’Donnell is Delaware, not Connecticut. However, the Republican nominee in CT is also pretty interesting, all things considered.